COVID-19 Climbing Guidelines: The Red River Gorge in the Daniel Boone National Forest, Muir Valley, and all RRGCC-owned property - which includes Miller Fork Recreational Preserve, Bald Rock Recreational Preserve, and Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve - request that you follow the guidelines outlined on each website if you choose to climb during this time. See links above for more details about each climbing area.


This route is located in the Muir Valley at Tectonic Wall and Johnny's Wall

Ball and Chain

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Cottonmouth 5.12b (Sport) ***

First Ascent: Justin Miniard, Dustin Stephens in 2016
Length: 40ft
Bolts: 6 (report bad bolts/anchors)

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Moves: unknown
Descent: Chains
Stays Dry:
Owner: Muir Valley

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Quality Consensus

3 stars (2 votes)
Grade Consensus
5.12c (5 votes)

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Sorry, no pictures to be had. {want to add a photo?}


dustonian said on August 20th, 2013
This will be open as soon as I get a chance to brush it. Same with Serpentine to the left if you happen to see a tag on it. In general this wall has very good rock underneath all the lichen.
pigsteak said on February 26th, 2014
is this one open Dustin?
Anonymous said on February 26th, 2014
No... finally brushed it and pulled the rope, just haven't had a belayer on it yet. Looks like a nice 11+!
dustonian said on February 1st, 2016
Prob more like hard 12 thanks to one damn move. Not sure if anyone ever sent this one or not...?
dustonian said on February 1st, 2016
PS not closed
jmini said on May 4th, 2016
Hey Ray or Dustin, what's up with this route? I just got on here to record it because I didn't know what it was. Has it seen an FA yet and just not been recorded?
dustonian said on May 4th, 2016
As far as I know you did the FA... Congrats! Got a grade? And feel free to change the name if you want. After I nearly manhandled a snake on this wall while bolting, the serpent theme kinda took over haha
jmini said on May 4th, 2016
Wow this will be my first FA..Thanks! My best guess would be maybe 5.12b? Not sure until other people actually climb it. I felt it was pretty cruiser until there was a shutdown sequence for me. And if I get to name it I'll stay with the snake them and call it 'Cottonmouth' since those are here in KY haha
dustonian said on May 4th, 2016
Cool... your name?
jmini said on May 4th, 2016
Justin Miniard
Anonymous said on May 5th, 2016
while there are cottonmouths in ky, they're not native to the gorge area.
jmini said on May 5th, 2016
I actually have to degrees in Wildlife Management so I am aware lol the name before was an African species and copperhead was already a route. So next best thing.
Anonymous said on May 5th, 2016
awww sheeeiiitt...anonymous got owned!
Anonymous said on May 6th, 2016
How about cornback rattler?
jmini said on May 6th, 2016
Hahaha that would've been a great name..
Anonymous said on May 6th, 2016
How about trouser snake?
Anonymous said on May 6th, 2016
You may have TWO degrees in wildlife management but obviously not in engrish
jmini said on May 6th, 2016
I knew someone would call me out on my intelligence because of a typo..I am now less superior. You win..
Rob Smith said on November 15th, 2016
Hard crux that I couldn't manage to do. One of the crimps is broken on the right side, not sure if that makes a difference. Fun climbing before and after the crux.
Corona said on November 27th, 2016
Well, I onsighted Ball and Chain--its twin to the right--without too much trouble. I spent about 45 minutes on the crux of Cottonmouth afterwards trying every trick in the book, then trying brute strength and skin to no avail. They're both fun little climbs, but those two grades have got to be different. Ball and Chain is ~V3 and Cottonmouth felt ~>V5 in good conditions. Props to Justin for getting the FA!
Corona said on November 27th, 2016
Helpful chart for grading one move climbs:
Chuckdott said on December 4th, 2016
Not sure I agree with that chart. V10 would never be considered 5.13 no matter how easy the rest was. However, the lower grades look reasonable. IMO V4 warrants 5.12 and V7 warrants 5.13 every time. So V5 crux should be 12b range.
JR said on June 13th, 2017
The consensus is all over the place because this boulder problem looks and feels competely doable.... but I just joined 2 other gents that have climbed 5.13 and walked away empty handed.
jmini said on September 27th, 2017
I talked to JR in the gym about this climb awhile ago and his experience on it. This past weekend I finally got back to it and quite a few crucial holds have broken. This climb needs to be put back up for grabs or however that works. Just thought I'd let people know this climb is most likely no where near 12b now.
dustonian said on September 27th, 2017
Dunno, it never really seemed like 12b even immediately after bolting it...
michaelarmand said on March 12th, 2019
There is a label on this climb calling it an 11c. Quite the ego bruising I experienced.
eduard said on October 5th, 2020
Doesn't look like anyone climbs this. Needed a broom to even get to that crux. I'm curious about beta - I couldn't get anything to work, though conditions were a bit manky today.
[email protected] said on May 3rd, 2021
Hardest 11c in the red???